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Running head: COFFEE AND CONVERSATION IN NAKHON PATHOM

Coffee and Conversation in Nakhon Pathom:


A Complex Adaptive Systems Perspective on Discourse
Michael J. Edwards
Thongsook College

COFFEE AND CONVERSATION IN NAKHON PATHOM

Abstract
Complexity theory is an approach to the study of dynamic systems. Its experimental focus
comes from the physical sciences, yet recent developments in its application are documented in
the field of applied linguistics. The following study highlights these developments. The
literature review covers the implications of complex systems when compared with generative
grammar and structuralist theories. In addition, a case study provides an integrated collection of
data taken from two tasks that are completed in Nakhon Pathom, Thailand. The results show that
the qualitative methods used provide for more comprehensive data when taken from L2 writing
and speaking tasks. Further suggestions include the likelihood that harder sciences might
improve the accuracy of findings from a complex systems view in linguistics.

COFFEE AND CONVERSATION IN NAKHON PATHOM

Coffee and Conversation in Nakhon Pathom:


A Complex Adaptive Systems Perspective on Discourse:
Two theories of grammar assume a commanding role in discussions of general linguistics
over the last half of the twentieth century. The structuralism of the Saussurean tradition, and
generative grammars following Noam Chomskys theories are reinforced in university studies as
the parameters of a debate between social influences and biological factors in language structure
(Lightfoot, 2002; Mesthrie, 2011). Although these influences would have linguists stuck in a
debate between the two perspectives, there is a common presumption that may be observed on
both sides of the literature: language may only be observed as separate from its context of use,
hence the distinction between langue and parole in Saussures theory, and the mental grammars
of Chomskys contributions.
More recent developments challenge the idea that language is a static system, and
instead, considers its interplay in a web of complex factors. Larsen-Freeman and Cameron state
that data is chosen selectively to test ideas similar to those in Saussure and Chomskys theories,
implying a built in bias in traditional studies (2008, p. 90). In response to the reductionism of
typical experimentation, a complexity theory in applied linguistics would consider language as a
dynamic system, defined by the following characteristics:
1. multiple interactions between agents/speakers,
2. non-linearity in its development,
3. adaptability across interactions between agents and context,
4. where usage is determined by social influences, as well as biological factors, and
5. A structure that emerges from the interactions, and dynamics of all factors contributing to
communication (Beckner et al, 2008).

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Although the research methodology pays closer attention to the last item, all are explored
as complexity theory views language from the point of view of relevant phenomena
exhibiting interconnectedness and reciprocal causality (Larsen-Freeman & Cameron, 2008, p.
59). From this perspective, one could expect any collection of linguistic data to provide a
picture of grammatical structures that emerge within communicative contexts. Perhaps this
process is more evident through dialogue where the medium of communication is implied,
and linguistic features of all types emerge through continuous development and adaptation.
Literature Review
Complexity across Disciplines
Appropriate for an empirical investigation, studies of complex systems in linguistics
follow those of several scientific disciplines. For example, the late Leo Kadanoff describes
turbulence on the surfaces of Jupiter, and Earth, and mentions the apparent underlying
regularities that may be observed within their chaotic atmospheres (1986). He further explains
that these regularities allow scientists to classify storm patterns, and clouds despite their
consistently varying compositions (p. 63). Similarly, the study of chaos is an integral component
of observing complex systems in linguistics. Just as a stratus cloud maintains its categorical
property, yet continually changes shape, so does language through interaction, context, and time.
Language structure in complex adaptive systems, however, is not defined by objective features
that are presumed to be social or innate as in generative grammar or structuralism. Instead,
interactions and their properties define the emergence of language structure within a chaotic, and
dynamic system. In these systems, each agent-speakers usage would actively contribute to the
ongoing co-development of one or more grammars. Although chaos makes it difficult to predict
outcomes, there is enough to collect from these interactions in order to construct adequate

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descriptions of emergent properties and dynamic effects. Therefore, a unique method of


investigation would be needed in order to accommodate the non-linearity of complex systems in
language structure.
Considerations in experimentation. As for complexity analyses themselves, the
respective ideas upon which experimentation are based have implications that often leave
traditional researchers confused. For example, Snowden suggests that management studies tend
to apply a single ontology of order to every-day affairs (2005). This is presumed to be connected
to the preference of using outcome-based experimentation in order to quantify the results of data
that is collected within a given organizational context. This has a similar ring to computational
models in linguistics that see language as input that is received and filtered through internal
rules, making it easy to analyze language as output, or dependent data. As previously stated,
predictions are not always reliable when they are used to find specific outcomes rather than
seeking overall effects. Outcome-based analyses often weigh down experiments by removing
any affecting data from the periphery of linear systems that are ostensibly bounded in their
hypotheses. Therefore, it is important to avoid removing context and background data out of a
sense of convenience in ones studies. In complexity analyses, the study of chaos is thought to
provide more accurate results. This could not be more apparent in language development
contexts where change is an integral component of the system (Wardaugh, 2002).
These ideas have broader implications that are important to understand. Although agency
is an important consideration in complexity, it may now be understood that determinism has no
place in its model of analysis (Osberg & Biesta, 2010). Deterministic thinking, for instance, can
be detrimental when longitudinal studies are not considered since the cause-effect relationship is
expected in a shorter range of time. In the moment a decision is made to move on to other

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actions in order to achieve a result that may already be happening, unintended consequences
occur. In educational settings, for example, a growing number of schools use arbitrary criteria
for suspending students, many of whom are on track academically (Balfanz, Byrnes & Fox,
2012). By doing so, it is believed that these students will be held to a higher standard of
achievement. However, a massive number of students are left behind as a result, causing further
inequity which may lead to a domino effect (e.g. increased rates of mental illness, lower
performance and economic stagnation in later years). This is a prime example of how
deterministic logic might limit ones expectations, or make one unaware of other affecting
factors, especially any emergent outcomes that leave researchers in a state of ignorance due to
interfering biases.
Dichotomies & linguistic historicity in complexity analyses. The dichotomization of
synchronic and diachronic linguistics is also problematic in analyzing complexity. Timescales of
memory, for example, may be observed as containing equally affective elements of both types of
analysis. Kramsch illustrates this point in describing historicity in the complexity of language
learning:

Language learners acquire the ability to communicate not only with other human beings
(native speakers, non-native speakers, students in the classroom, teachers), but also with
imagined and remembered interlocutors (imagined selves in their diaries, imagined and
remembered others on Line, on Facebook, over the phone, constructed others in novels,
plays and poems). (2011, p. 14).

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This idea is reinforced in stating that the body of the learner replicates previous ways of
learning that get reactivated somatically (p. 14). Therefore, separating diachronic from
synchronic linguistics may often lead to a lack of sufficient detail in either conceptualizing
generative grammars, or explaining culturally participative elements in human interaction.
Further into this study, various linguistic analyses are compared and contrasted, including
those grounded in deterministic ideas, as well as a few that are non-deterministic, but insistent in
describing end-state grammars. The following details regarding complexity and linguistic
structure are meant to make sense of language development from several points of view. In turn,
it may not be reasonable to pin down language with deterministic expectations or the safety of
positing language as an object in modeling experimentation.
Contrasting Perspectives on Linguistic Structure
Structuralism. Saussures contributions to linguistics have an implicit, but enormous
influence on the field to this day. In traditional scientific analyses, for instance, an object of
study is defined in discrete terms. In contrast, structuralist models following Saussures lead
reveal the potentially arbitrary nature of language as a subject of observation. In describing
semiotic connections, Saussure separates form from meaning. Whereas signifiers are defined
as structural elements, such as combinations of phonemes and written language alone, the
signified is the meaning attached to these structures (Meyer, 2009, p. 15). For example, the
structure of the word channel may be analyzed in phonetics as its spoken form, /nl/, and
that which portrays meaning: a television or radio stations band of transmission frequencies, or
a stretch of water connecting two larger bodies of water.
Generative grammar. As these ideas relate to complexity theory, Chomskys generative
grammars move a step further in divorcing meaning from structure. Deep structure and

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surface structure, and later developments of a biologically innate faculty of syntactic


processing describe language use as a recursive act of retrieval and application of grammatical
rules (Chomsky, 1957). Take these examples:
1. The people eat snacks.
2. There were many who ate those snacks.
The pattern in number one may represent Chomskys deep structure, or that which generates
the next (from the X-bar perspective) where the base in a hierarchical structure branches
downward from the sentence level to the phrase level (i.e. X1 NP VP). Thus, it is meant to
illustrate how recursive utterances might reference a base element of grammar. This is later
replaced in Chomskys Minimalist Program in which a universal grammar is sensitive to
information that is mapped onto its set of internal principles and parameters as language input.
Applied linguistics and complexity. Although Saussure and Chomsky can be seen at
the center of discussions in general linguistics, the field of applied linguistics, on the other hand,
contributes a much different understanding of the connections between form and meaning. It is
stated that ones usage of grammar can convey meaning in two ways: representational and
interpersonal (Thornbury, 1999). Representational usage relates to the ways in which language
is actively structured in order to connect meaning to personal experience. The interpersonal
relates to how grammar may be used to communicate effectively between interlocutors. Take the
following sentences for example:

1. The food was delicious.


2. May I have your number?

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Number one is a representational sentence as it indicates a personal feeling and/or opinion, while
number two shows an interrogative sentence structure which includes a modal (May) that is used
specifically to express interpersonal meaning. This distinction might be useful for a broader
understanding of the connection between meaning and language structure. However, it does not
yet explain language as a dynamic system if it even intends to do so. Such a complex system
would see a multitude of cognitive processes distributed across the trajectory of a state space in
which grammatical structure is emergent (Larsen-Freeman & Cameron, 2008, p.108). Moreover,
the distinction would not be sufficient in properly describing or explaining a systems workings
where rules cannot account for its reciprocity among agents and the continuous co-development
of grammar.
However, rules in the Universal Grammar form can define an initial condition, as
Larsen-Freeman suggests in introducing the first complexity theory in applied linguistics (1997).
In the same article, the subcomponents of language are also described (phonology, morphology,
syntax) as having mutually affective characteristics in use by individuals. It is this condition in
which language use is sensitive during the process of soft assembly. This happens when there
is no real agreement among speakers to use any particular form, yet linguistic patterns become
stable enough on their own for speakers to refer to them in communication with others. Thus,
individual intention is important in deciding what structure or item might be used to adapt to the
communicative setting, but natural language is constantly assembled through an emergence of
components that is too broad to be directed by agency alone.
Take the interaction below for an understanding of agency on a micro-scale. An extreme
form of ellipsis is used, for example, in warnings between interlocutors:

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*A couple crosses the road at a busy intersection, and a car approaches the couple*
Person A begins running toward the median
A: *Waves hand* Quickly!
B: *Startled Gasps - Runs*
The wave of the hand implies that it is visible enough to speaker B who, in turn, should interpret
the gesture by moving to the middle of the road. The only established word in the interaction,
quickly, would most likely be heard with stress on the first syllable: /kwikli:/. The
paralinguistic *gasp* directly expresses speaker Bs fright, but as an impulsive coping strategy to
herself/himself, rather than a reply to speaker A. So, not only does context matter in this
interaction, but individual agency and reciprocity between interlocutors is evident. Both speaker
As gesture and utterance are intended to alert person B, and person B did respond in a way in
which the perlocutionary effect is achieved. However, speaker A and Bs communication is not
the only factor contributing to perlocution. Without the oncoming car, there would be no need
for the interaction, and without the setting, there would be no experience in this context in which
safety is assumed. Thus, even the interaction here, including its grammatical element, is softassembled within the dynamic structure of a complex and adaptive system.
Usage-based grammar. A usage-based approach to grammar views constructions
similarly. For example, Ellis and ODonnell describe four determinants of associative learning
with regard to form-meaning pairs, including input frequency, form, function and contingency in
interaction (2011 p. 3513). As documented in many studies of corpora, the statistical frequency
of items has an effect on the language that emerges in use. This is inferred as contributing to a
cognitive inventory of structures through individuals schematic processing. However, this
should not be confused with any growth in vocabulary bearing a causal relationship since these

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studies analyze the associations between both form and meaning. This approach is consistent
with a complex systems view in that constructions of grammatical and semantic mappings are
not generated from one source-schema or faculty, but mutually affective and interconnected with
other contextual phenomena.
As for more concrete examples, two commonly studied constructions from a complex
systems perspective are lexicalized phrases and ditransitive verbs (Baicchi, 2015, p. 24).
Lexicalized phrases are different than normal constructions in that their lexicality is not
consistent with hierarchical, syntactic categories. Instead, they push the bounds of these
categories in use as they are found in conversation, often unrelated even to their words. They
may exist as dynamic expressions, collocations, idioms and so on. Both lexicalized phrases and
ditransitive verbs are similar during acquisition when they may be observed as cognitive
bundles in which type-frequency contributes to their perceived associations. While all verbargument constructions imply that verbs are central to meaning between their subjects and
predicate constituents, the ditransitive carries an additional argument in predicate form where
two objects appear as recipient and theme. Thus, bundling of lexical items in frequencies of
tokens or types is a signature feature of a complex adaptive system in human language.
Phase Spaces in Complex Systems: The Finer Details
It is useful to understand a few of the common components of complex systems in order
to imagine how the dynamics of such a system may exist in a language development context.
One may begin by guiding oneself mentally through the trajectory of state spaces or phase
spaces where the entire making of the phenomena in question unfolds: The set of all possible
values of the variables, i.e. the set of all possible states of the system, is called the phase space
(Baranger, 2011). In studies of language, this is the entire makeup of time and space in which

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interactions are taking place, and change is occurring. Its makeup consists of a heterogeneous
give and take of constructions, context and individual agency. Within phase spaces, several
components may be observed including:

1. phase shifts,
2. attractors,
3. controlling elements,
4. fractals, and
5. emergent language (Larsen-Freeman & Cameron, 2008, p. 46 63).

Phase shifts. Within a phase space, large scale changes occur that redefine the overall
structure observed. This is analogous to concepts such as language death in discourse
communities where new varieties are used, while some dialects, variations or whole languages
disappear (Crystal, 2000). It also represents a relationship between language use and mental
mapping in that any linguistic item is not just added to a lexical inventory, but is relational in
having metonymic value. An additional feature or item that is unknown may disrupt the entire
flow of use, or even change the identity of a speaker within a single instance, extending to an
unbounded series of interactions.
In sociolinguistic terms, the connections between identity and language structure are
evident. Historical linguists, for instance, often use comparative reconstruction methods to find
similarities between different languages of the same family. One example is the word father in
English which shares a similar phonological structure with words of the same denotation in other
languages of the Indo-European family: in Sanskrit: pit, Greek: patr, and Latin: pater (Hogg,

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2002, p. 3). In this case, phase shifts would occur from one community to the next in which
slight phonetic variations may assemble through interaction and time within each discourse
community, or phase space the larger the range of distance between each of their respective
geographic areas, the more the phonetic realization of this meaning results in an omission of the
/r/ or /p/ phonemes. Complexity theory would see these variations as an emergence of semantic
and structural relationships. This idea is explored later in the research.
Attractors. A metaphorical basin can be envisioned as an attractor in which the comfort
of a linguistic pattern is followed in order to maintain equilibrium. This often follows, or in
some cases, leads to dissipation, such as that which is observed between the Indo-European
languages mentioned. Chaos may ensue when a state of confusion arises between speakers, yet
the confusion gradually dissipates when the speakers find some common element in their
exchange. Moreover, a mutual pragmatic understanding emerges on a psychological level when
speakers use context-specific mannerisms that seem to fit the mood of their conversations. These
mannerisms are attractor elements in that they keep the conversation moving in a more
comfortable direction. For example, native speakers of English often simplify their speech
delivery, reinforcing patterns of an incipient lexicon used to make utterances more
comprehensible to interlocutors whose use of the language is secondary to another. A more
technical instance is the use of Simplified English in examinations given to engineering students
where test developers attempt to conform to standards that limit vagueness in vocabulary and
grammatical rules (Harrison & Morgan, 2012). Thus, the implied parameters of an adaptive
exchange between these test developers and engineering students serve as an attractor point that
is reinforced by the standards of SE.

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Controlling elements. This reinforcement acts as a controlling element when its


requirement becomes influential in the outer framework of the discourse. The controlling
element creates parameters that are linked as a result of intelligible structures. Furthermore, it is
possible that it comes in the form of a perturbation resulting in regularly occurring patterns of
exchange. These may be understood as taking on many forms. They could be personified as
teachers managing a classroom around lesson content, or even more stable, and influential
patterns in the network itself. An intention could be a pragmatic controlling element in that
ones motivation in carrying out a specific task might bring her/him into contact with someone
else in a conversation about the task. An amalgamation of these occur in debates when
moderators pose questions on specific topics. Take the interaction below between U.S. political
candidates Martin OMalley and Hillary Clinton, both of whom are vying for nomination in the
Democratic Party presidential primaries. The topic relates to a previous question when
moderator Kathie Obradovich inquires about the national minimum wage (Beckwith, 2015).
Clinton responds by agreeing with a third opponent, Bernie Sanders, and states that it should be
increased to twelve dollars per hour:
Clinton: I think that is the smartest way to be able to move forward, because if you go to
twelve dollars, it would be the highest historical average weve ever had.
OMalley: Come on now. Yeah, but look. It should always be going up. Again, with all
do respect to Secretary Clinton
Clinton: But you would index it... You would index it to the median wage. Of course,
you would. Do the twelve dollars, and you would index it. But I
OMalley: I think we need to stop taking our advice from economists on Wall Street.
Clinton: Hes not Wall Street.

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OMalley: And start taking our advice


Clinton: Thats not fair. Hes a progressive economist.
*Side Talk*
Dickerson: You have You have given me the perfect segue. We are going to talk about
Wall Street, but now weve got to go do a commercial.
In analyzing these interactions, one can see how the intentions of the first moderator are directed
toward guiding the candidates in argumentation about the topic. The second moderator ends the
conversation. These are clear controlling parameters, while the topic itself is also a controlling
element in that it implies a boundary in which the discourse can operate.
Furthermore, Clinton begins by setting up an argument based on the practicality of a
twelve dollar minimum wage. OMalleys response shows indirectness (an attractor) in implying
that one raise alone would not be enough. He prefaces the statement that follows with an adverb
phrase, with all due respect, softening the tone of his disagreement: another connection
between meaning and structure within the control parameters. Both Clinton and OMalleys
statements are directed toward the control topic and person: the moderator. In a nonargumentative context, one would find interlocutors assisting one another in the completion of
statements/sentences/thoughts since the control emerges within the context of a more dialectic
dynamic. However, in this debate, the discourse is directed toward the controlling parameters so
as to merge the attractor with the controlling element in order to show professionality. The most
interaction happening between them occurs when OMalley indirectly implies again that
Clintons statements about indexing the minimum wage are taken from untrusted economists.
Clinton takes this as referring to Alan Krueger who is mentioned earlier in the debate, to which
she responds quickly by contradicting the statement with another argument in proper form. At

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the end, a phase shift occurs when the second moderator, John Dickerson senses the attractor
basin by leveraging the subtopic in order to provide for ease in the relationship between the
candidates, himself, and possibly the viewers as well since the debate is televised.
Fractals. The candidates own thoughts are directed by the moderator in a way that
suggests their willingness to hear the topic, and formulate a response based on their beliefs or
political alignments. The movement of discourse into the attractor topic follows the beliefs,
motivations, experiences, feelings and reasoning of the participants who in turn agree to illustrate
these aspects of their candidacies by contributing to a range of self-organizing structures. Each
of these, and other similar phenomena, are fractals.
Fractals in the physical sciences tend to be the pieces in which interconnectedness in a
complex system can be observed more closely (Turcotte, Malamud, Guzzetti & Reichenbach,
2002), while in linguistics, they are any contributing factors that shape the use of such a
language. They tend to follow controlling elements into the attractors, but their self-organization
is evident in their locations during soft-assembly. Occasionally dissipating, fractals are
recognized in a given language at one moment, and become unused the next. Figure 1 below
shows examples of language-fractals in a whirpool-like system. The curvature and terms
corresponding to each wave represent fractals that are appropriately viewed as movements that
actively shape the system. On the inner edges, there are purely linguistic features, and on the
outer edges there are psychological and contextual fractals. Each of these may move to another
curve in the system within the parameters set by time, context, space, and people. Thus,
language tends to emerge as a result of soft-assembly through the self-organization of fractals.
Emergent language. To many linguists, one of the most interesting parts of complex
systems is the emergence of language. There is even an entire discipline in linguistics that

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focuses strictly on emergent language, hence emergentism. On its own, emergentism still
attempts to work within computational frameworks by describing language structure as
hierarchical and combinatorial from an efficiency perspective in which the burden on working
memory is reduced (O,Grady, 2010).

Figure 1. A model illustrating various fractals contributing to language as a complex system.


Syntax would not be grounded in a recursive process, but a simpler storage of associations
between functions and categories,1 while language arises as a property of said associations.
Thus, as in CT, language becomes more than the sum of its parts. Figure 4 shows the
representations of an associative framework in emergentist syntax. The categories model that
which is presumed to come out of a psycholinguistic realization: a left-to-right verb argument
structure where the nominal comes last in its relation to the verb. Once a relationship is
discovered, the speaker would move to the next, and so on, continually making sure syntactic
complexity does not approach its cognitive threshold.
However, language emergence within a complex adaptive system does not require a
processor approach such as this one since its focus is nested in several levels and timescales
(Larsen-Freeman & Cameron, 2008, p. 240). A complex systems view does not model the

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dynamic structuring of language-fractals as one that always seeks to increase pleasant


acquisitions, nor efficient processes, but one that considers the chaos of all that affects a
language and its structure.

Figure 2. An emergentist model adapted from OGradys An Emergentist Approach to


Syntax, p. 5.
In most cases, the occasional inefficiency of this process would also have these structures
modeled with more non-linearity than left-to-right reductions would permit. Most importantly, it
should be remembered that the complex systems view is about the process itself, and thus, one
that models syntax while it is in the making. Therefore, language that emerges from complex
systems, including its structure, is always in a provisional state even if individuals cognitive
capacities might be evolving toward efficiency.
Criticism
There is surprisingly little criticism of complexity theory from the generative grammar
perspective. This might be due to the accommodation given to UG when merged with a sensitive
initial condition for soft-assembly in complex systems. However, some linguists seek to
continue the Sausurrean tradition of separating linguistic rules from use by approaching
complexity theory from a somewhat utilitarian perspective (Buschfeld, Hoffmann, Huber &
Kautzch, 2014). From this view, patterns that are derived from existing linguistic data are what

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count in practice since the data are presumed to be more reliable than any measurement of
complexity as a mere perception. Thus, even phenomena such as dialects and accent variation
would be seen as objects of their own, while the active use, parole, remains a complex system.
However, an integrated analysis seems to be the strong point of a complex adaptive
systems perspective in linguistics. Rather than sticking to the comfort of that which seems to
arise from tradition in immutable form,2 observing dynamic systems comes with the chaos of
perturbations, phase shifts and irregular movement among fractals. In doing so, one might hope
for more accuracy when the findings are presented. Furthermore, the fractals contributing to
language as a complex system make it unrealistic to separate form from use. In referring back to
Figure 1, it would be very difficult, for instance, to redirect the movement of morphology as a
part of the dialogic engine driving a discourse community. If this is any indication that dynamic
properties of language may realistically be observed within the trajectory of their phase spaces,
then applied linguistics should consider the complex systems view to a greater degree. In fact,
L2 development provides ample opportunity for researching these properties.
Method
Past research shows that local linguistic analyses often contribute little to the knowledge
base on L2 development in task performance since many neglect developmental considerations
in experimentation (Lambert & Kormos, 2014). Alternatives are proposed that consider the
dynamic systems approach, as well as tests of information density that move away from verbal
negotiations alone. In turn, the following case study evaluates integrated linguistic data on a
small scale by: 1. comparing written and verbal tasks through combining linguistic and
contextual observations, and 2. using a model of complexity theory to situate the data collected.
Since it is inappropriate in CT to filter observations through outcomes, it is more pertinent to

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assess the extent to which these data may contribute to theory without resorting outright to
confirming, nor rejecting the alternatives mentioned. If these integrated tasks produce useful
data for assessing L2 interaction, then this model should result in a longer list of inferences and
less reductionism in the possibilities that emerge.
Design
Larsen-Freeman and Camerons thought modeling is referenced in the design (2008,
pp. 70 & 71). A writing task is provided to participants for documenting language from
graduated timelines, and a second task elicits emergent verbal language. Lexical frequencies,
distributions and qualitative data are taken from the writing sample, while the analysis involves
triangulation of several linguistic analyses, including discourse, prosody and lexis.
Participants and Setting
Appropriate for the design, the tasks are completed in a local coffee shop connected to an
apartment complex in Nakhon Pathom, Thailand. The document shown in Appendix 1 is used to
obtain the participants permission to distribute records of the tasks. Two female participants,
ages 24 and 33, agree to the tasks. Both state that they are nursing students in two different
graduate programs at a well-known university in the area. Participant 1 studies community
nursing, and Participant 2 studies pediatrics. Moreover, both participants also report to have
scored in the 60s range (out of 100) of their universitys English language examination,
indicating an upper-beginner to lower-intermediate level of proficiency in the language. While
both are native speakers of Thai language, Participant 2 also speaks Isan as a primary language.
Participant 1 reports to have moved to the area from her native province, Isan, in the northeastern
region of the country. Before university studies, Participant 2 lived in Ratchaburi, which is
located just south of the area of research.

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Tools
Appendices 1 and 2 show four written responses to open-ended questions provided to
both participants in the first task. These are used to collect data following various timescales of
memory to be analyzed through discourse and lexical item analyses (Tables 1 and 2). The first
question is contextual in relating to the immediate set of circumstances: preferences for coffee.
In addition, this response provides further qualitative data relating to affect during the second
task since each participant may enjoy their time in the venue, or express aversion toward the
experience. The last three graduate from moments earlier in the day, earlier in the week, and
earlier in life.
Task 2 is recorded by means of audio & video in order to document any body language,
and extraneous contributions affecting the task. As seen in Appendices 4 and 5, each participant
assumes a different role during the task. Figure 5 is a list of directions used by Participant 2 in
describing the making of a pentagonal shape to Participant 1. All tools are intended to elicit
emergent linguistic patterns for analysis.
Results
Writing Task. With regard to Tables 1 and 2, the data that appear most useful seem to
come, not from the numbers, but from the extra-pragmatic elements that might contribute to
interpretations and meaning-making of the task. For example, the highest frequency item in
these tables is the pronoun I for both participants. The narrative and opinion-related genres
elicited in the parameters of Task 1 are the most likely explanation for this usage, but there is
much variability between both participants standard scores for this item (z=3.675 and z=6.929).
Since there is only a difference of 4 between observations, the quantitative data collected does
not explain the frequency of usage. In looking further to question four, the answers reflect

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significant differences in interest that might be reflective of their ages. Participant 1 notes a
more comprehensive, and itemized list of reflections that include cultural matters, hence -the
culture and values: Example; Most teenager are progressive group. From a developmental
perspective, Participant 2 is nine years older, and may have more concern for worldly matters. If
so, age might also contribute to lower or higher frequencies of I since the participants memory
is situated in age-relevant events pertaining to either immediate or broad scenarios in reflection.
The two nouns of highest frequency, example for Participant 1, and technology for Participant
2, may be further evidence for the age hypothesis due to the potential immediacy/worldly
spectrum of usage accompanying such a response (Appendices 2 and 3). If this is correct, it
would confirm Lambert and Kormos assessment.
Another pertinent analysis in Task 1 is how the discourse operates between responses. As
seen in Participant 1s responses in items 2, 3 and 4, the questions are reformulated, and
reconstructed to finish the answer. Most notable of these is the response under question 4 in
Appendix 2 in which the response is prefaced by stating In ways had the world changed I was
younger including. Similarly, a common reconstruction among English L1 speakers would be
Ways in which the world has changed followed by the list as the question is posed in the
present perfect. In contrast, Participant 2 illustrates a response from a memory of the past, and
therefore, uses the past tense auxiliary had in order to formulate the phrase.
The connotations derived from the list imply that the examples of present-day features,
including public transport and social media devices, make the world different than it is perceived
in past memories. Contrastingly, Participant 1 explicitly refers to prior experiences and their
relation to existing technological advances, hence Because when I was younger, it was low
technology e.g. telephone, communication device, but now Its very high technology. The

COFFEE AND CONVERSATION IN NAKHON PATHOM

23

form-meaning constructions low technology and high technology may denote one of three
possibilities. They could relate to the prior sentence, whereas it refers to technology in that
statement. They could refer to the state of technological advances, or both.
Listening & Speaking Task. As for the transcription of Task 2 in Table 3, there are two
dynamics that are most telling as they are noted to emerge. The first is semantic in that meaning
is constructed by Participant 2 throughout the task. For example, in lines 7 and 8, Participant 2
begins directing Participant 1 to draw the pentagonal shape, starting with five dots. In Appendix
5, the first step in the task directs Participant 2 to describe making the shape with the sample
paper provided to Participant 1. Participant 2 takes the words paper sample to denote
Participant 1s directions for Task 2 (Appendix 4). Since these directions are needed to complete
the task, it is inferred that Participant 1 should draw the shape. Thus, make the shape in step 1
is also given to connote drawing, rather than folding, cutting, or tearing etc.
The second dynamic is that there is little verbal interaction between participants. The
only relevant interaction comes from two small negotiations in lines 11 and 17 when two
clarifications are elicited. In the last listed in Table 3, Participant 1 is noted as checking for
understanding of the direction in which the current line should be drawn. Participant 2 responds
promptly and affirmatively by reiterating left..left. Moreover, the negotiation prior to this
pertains to the participants phonological realizations. In line 10 of Table 4, for example,
Participant 2s utterance of the verb draw is pronounced using a glottal stop, cutting the vowel
sound short. This is similarly used as a final vowel in Thai speech, and since the participant
seems to be gathering her thoughts for the next utterance, this phoneme is produced with less
deliberate attention to its articulation (Slayden, 2009, p. 8). Participant 1 then reiterates the verb
by using the back-open /a/ to clarify the meaning. Thus, meaning and form come simultaneously

COFFEE AND CONVERSATION IN NAKHON PATHOM

24

through L1-related schemata, memory and production, while they are co-constructed by both
participants exchanging negotiated information about the task. Although there is little verbal
exchange, the active listening process may be inferred from the evidence in Appendix 6 showing
successful perlocution.
Table 4
Phonetic transcription of verbal interaction between participants and researcher during Task 2
Time
00:02-00:03
00:03-00:06
00:06-00:09
00:12-00:14
00:15
02:10-02:13
02:20-02:23
02:23-02:30
02:35-02:45
2:47- 02:52
02:52
02:54-03:02
03:05-03:07
03:07
03:08- 03:20
03:22-03:25
03:26-03:27
3:27-03:29
03:31-03:34
03:36-03:44
03:46-03:52
03:54
04:02
04:09-04:14
04:18-04:19
04:20

Line
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26

Transcription of Utterances ( (..) indicates a pause)


1: natmuvsofar
1: kenjusthir (..) mb: (..) widoundstandin
r: a:jaur
1: wenwiknstat
r: nau
1: awilkspleintu: tu: dra:p
1: put - fadats
1: nd (..) rat (..) wid (..) : (..) fa:t:favgl
1: :n (..) raitdau (..) baut (..) foetifaivgw (..) onlain
1: k (..) :nju:dra (..) m -
2: dra
1: draw (..) tlat (..) (..) dau:n - but - foetifavegl
1: daun (..) yes
*laughter*
1: okei (..) (..) :nd (..) (..) pnt (..) padf (..) dt (..) ndt
1: stnlan (..) sdnbk
2: leafrait
1: leafleaf
1: itsbaut (..) tu:sntmt
1: :nd (..) aftadjuhavtu: (..) pin (..) tdtdufrslain
1: sau:itiz (..) fiv (..) eigeu
2: aukei
1: kdas:t
1: k: (..) fin (..) nditslaikma:n
1: ju: (..) vrigud
*laughter*

Other L1 phonological influences may be noted in lines 9, 16 and 19. The diacritic mark
for a falling tone /a/ is used to show Speaker 2s realization of the verb down in line 9 which

COFFEE AND CONVERSATION IN NAKHON PATHOM

25

also omits the final consonant sound. Additionally, the realization of straight as /stn/ in line
16 reveals variation in the consonant clusters where the first schwa reflects the implied vowel
present in all Thai consonants without clustering. The /str/ cluster is uncommon to non-existent
in Thai speech. This leads to another progressive assimilation often used in Thai where the
trilled /r/ or labial /l/ sounds are commonly omitted between bilabial consonants and vowels
(Slayden, 2009, p.9). Finally, the adapted /sntmt/ in the Thai lexicon, as noted in line 19,
would include the final /r/ as the English centimeter in standard usage. However, variation in
this region may include these types of loan words, or adaptations as they become influential in
L2 development.
Further Discussion and Limitations
Although the variability in lexical usage between participants is large in Task 1, the
participants English language proficiency levels are similar. Therefore, the quantitative data
reveals very little when averaged unless other measures are considered for their relation to it.
The mean is only significant in the item analysis in that frequencies and other data may be
compared to it. These data are useful for finding emergent patterns, such as the potential agerelated focus on relevant pragmatic patterns. However, they are relatively ineffective for
analyzing complexity and density of information when compared to the qualitative measures
used. For example, question 4 in the writing task provides for a more in-depth evaluation from a
complexity perspective since the interests of participants are documented using specific
structures (e.g. reconstructive phrase developments).
In addition, the phonological analysis shows that form-meaning constructions are used in
negotiated interactions between participants, while contextual factors situating these forms are
found throughout the data. Although many of these methods are localized linguistic analyses,

COFFEE AND CONVERSATION IN NAKHON PATHOM

26

when triangulated, they show broader patterns found in the discourse. Therefore, testing
interconnectedness becomes much more comprehensive when these methods are used together,
but do the data measure a complex adaptive system?
Suggestions and Limitations
To definitively answer this question, no less than hard science is required to measure the
biological and ecological influences with linguistic processes, as well as their relationship with
time, context and space during interaction. Although local experimentation may suggest
directions in the use of various modalities, a true measure of complex systems needs far more
advanced study than speculation on metaphors could provide. Mass-scale studies in corpora
through various timelines may lead to significant realizations of these aspects of emergent
language, and these may remain important for studying complexity in structure. Conversely,
studies of dynamic systems require much more than static data. Therefore, neurolinguistic and
psycholinguistic studies may be the way forward with regard to CT in studies of language as
long as an overemphasis on controlled variables and outcome-based studies are avoided.
Conclusion
Generative grammar and structuralism seem to provide parts of the big picture that
complexity theory seeks to describe, such as the study of innate processes, as well as the tools
used to carry out this study. These approaches contribute value in several ways of their own that
do not follow the applied linguistics of CT precisely, but still contribute useful research methods
in approaching language as a dynamic system. Furthermore, within the phase spaces of
communication in both tasks studied, it is clear that a complex systems metaphor can be applied
in the assessment. In fact, its application appears to be more complex than even categorical
metaphors may describe. For example, the control parameters may be understood from several

COFFEE AND CONVERSATION IN NAKHON PATHOM

27

angles: the directions in Task 2, the researcher or the shop itself, while the directions also serve
as attractors since the participants interactions follow the task described. The participants
utterances and writing samples may be understood as fractals or emergent language, so as to
blend the motions between one factor and the next. When opened to the chaos between speakers,
context, space and time, its self-organization takes on form that knows only change itself. In this
way, it is quite possible that language is a real, complex adaptive system.

COFFEE AND CONVERSATION IN NAKHON PATHOM

28

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Footnotes
1

This is similar to Ellis and ODonnels VACs. However, in CT, these features are

often not only functional and categorical as in emergentism, but essentially meaningbased.
2

Larsen-Freeman and Cameron call this the adibiatic principle...a term in physics used

to describe illusory approximations whereas processes occur so slowly as to be wrongly


perceived as constants.

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32

Appendix 1
Personal Information and Declaration of Understanding for Research Participants

Directions: Please fill out the form below, including all personal information indicated, as well
as your name and signature on the statement below.

Name:

Date of Birth:

Country:
Province / State:

City / Town:

Phone:

Email:

I __________ understand that I will be participating in a series of tasks that involve writing, and
spoken communication with another person for research purposes, and I give my permission to
be recorded using the following tools: script, audio and / or video. I also understand that my
writing, and the recordings will be analyzed for research purposes, and may be stored on the
internet and / or other electronic databases that are open to public use.

_________________
Signature

COFFEE AND CONVERSATION IN NAKHON PATHOM


Appendix 2

33

COFFEE AND CONVERSATION IN NAKHON PATHOM


Appendix 3

34

COFFEE AND CONVERSATION IN NAKHON PATHOM

35

Appendix 4

Task 2 Participant 1
*Avoid looking at any text or visuals used by Participant 2.
Directions: Remove the paper sample from the second envelope. Wait
for Participant 2 to finish reading her / his directions for this task. Next,
follow the steps below.

1. Listen to any explanations or directions given by Participant


2.
2. Use the paper sample to construct the object described by
Participant 2.

3. When the task is complete, Participant 2 will show you the


object described. Talk about whether your product is similar
to the object revealed.

COFFEE AND CONVERSATION IN NAKHON PATHOM

36

Appendix 5

Task 2 Participant 2
*DO NOT reveal the contents of this page to Participant 1 until
after the task is finished.
Directions: Wait for Participant 1 to finish reading her / his
directions for this task. Next, follow the steps below.
1. Guide Participant 1 through the process of making the
shape below with the paper sample provided to her / him.
Explain every action to the best of your ability.

2. When you think the task has been completed, reveal the
shape above so Participant 1 can see it.
3. Talk to Participant 1 about whether you think the finished
product is similar to the figure on this page.

COFFEE AND CONVERSATION IN NAKHON PATHOM


Appendix 6

37

COFFEE AND CONVERSATION IN NAKHON PATHOM


Tables
Table 1
Sample Items Analysis for Participant 1
Participant Item
1
Analysis
Mean
1.263157895
Variance
0.554511
St. Dev.
0.744655
Observations
57
Item
f
z
I
4 3.675316
the
4 3.675316
example
4 3.675316
and
3 2.332412
my
2 0.989508
transportation
2 0.989508
to
2 0.989508
in
2 0.989508
Note: All items with a frequency over 1 are included.

Table 2
Sample Items Analysis for Participant 2

Participant
2
Mean
Variance
St. Dev.
Observations
Item
I
very
it
technology

Item
Analysis
1.393443
1.542623
1.242024
61
f
10
3
3
3

z
6.929461
1.293499
1.293499
1.293499

38

COFFEE AND CONVERSATION IN NAKHON PATHOM


to
drink
because
here
for
my
It's
younger
was

2
2
2
2
2
2
2
2
2

0.488362
0.488362
0.488362
0.488362
0.488362
0.488362
0.488362
0.488362
0.488362

Note: All items with a frequency over 1 are included.


Table 3
Transcription of interaction between participants and researcher during Task 2.
Time

Line

00:02-00:03

Transcription of Utterances

(..) indicates a pause

1 Not move so far.


1:
1

00:03-00:06

2 Can you stay here? Maybe we dont understanding.


1:
2

00:06-00:09
3
00:12-00:14

3r: Uh. Yeah, sure. *walks from background to sit near the
research area*
4 When we can start?
1:

4
00:15

5 Now. *sits down* (00:20-57 Barista uses coffee grinder)


r:
5

02:10-02:13

6 I will explain (..) to (..) to (..) draw a shape.


1:
6

02:20-02:23

7 Put (..) five dots.


1:
7

02:23-02:30

8 And write (..) with (..) a (..) forty five angle.


1:
8

02:35-02:45
9
2:47- 02:52

91: And (..) write down (..) about (..) forty five angle (..) on the
line.
1 Okay. And you draw (..) uhm.
1:

10
02:52

1 Draw?
2:
11

02:54-03:02
12
03:05-03:07
13

11: Draw (..) that line (..) uh (..) down (..) about (..) forty five
angle.
1 Down. Yes.
1:

39

COFFEE AND CONVERSATION IN NAKHON PATHOM


03:07

*laughter*

14
03:08- 03:20
15
03:22-03:25

11: Okay. Uh (..) and (..) uh (..) point (..) part of that (..) and
dot.
1 Straight line (..) straight back.
1:

16
03:26-03:27

1 Left or right?
2:
17

3:27-03:29

1 Left, left.
1:
18

03:31-03:34

1 I think its about (..) two centemet.*


1:
19

03:36-03:44
20
03:46-03:52

21: Anduh, After that, you have to (..) point (..) that dot to
the first line.
2 So it is (..) five angle.
1:

21
03:54

2 Okay.
2:
22

04:02

2 Can I see it?


1:
23

04:09-04:14

2 Okay. Finished (..) and its like mine.


1:
24

04:18-04:19

5 You (..) very good.


1:
25

04:20

2
26

*laughter*

40